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On second thought, Ryan Anderson is living on borrowed time

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The writing has really been on the wall for some time, but with the announcement of Omer Asik's deal, Anderson's departure is inevitable. Can Dell Demps turn the Flame Thrower into a solid asset before he walks?

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

When Alvin Gentry was hired, he gave numerous interviews. Among his introductory press conference and later a two-part series with David Wesley on Pelicans.com, one name was notably absent from conversation: Ryan Anderson.

Normally, we should never give this much thought. Unsubstantiated speculation rarely comes to fruition. How many times has a new coach not naming a player or two led to them departing the team shortly thereafter? This is especially true when one remembers Anderson seems primed to fill a "Channing Frye" type of role.

Well, early last month, I made a mistake. I, along with probably every other fan, assumed the Gentry hiring dictated Anderson would be the Frye-guy next season.

The +/- data overwhelming favored Frye and it's no mistake. In today's game, spacing is crucial as modern defenses have learned how to overload the strong sides. Opponents have to respect Anderson whether his shot is dropping or not. (For the record, I expect Anderson to have a career year next season.) Just like how Frye helped propel Steve Nash, Amar'e Stoudemire and the rest of the Suns to the 4th best offense since 1980, Anderson's ability to stretch the defense will keep the paint open for the Pelicans host of penetrators and give the Brow the most room to spread his wings.

An offensively-driven coach working for an offensively-minded general manager should have no problems integrating a player who possesses immense value on the scoring end of the floor. Yet, here's the problem, he is not as seamless of a fit as many of us believe.

During Frye's time in Phoenix, Steve Nash was the center of the Suns' universe. Let the 2-time MVP break down the defense and find the wide open man. The only requirement of his teammates was that they be adept at spacing the floor.

Well, the New Orleans offense isn't going to run in similar manner. Since his days in Phoenix, Gentry has been all about ball movement and motion. During his time with the Clippers and Warriors, both teams finished first in secondary assists per game. The number of passes per game were always higher when Alvin sat on that particular team's bench.

The power forwards on both of those teams? Blake Griffin and Draymond Green. Two versatile and dynamic players that are nearly polar opposites of Ryan Anderson.

PPG 3PA per 36 AST % DREB % Defensive Rating OPP FG% at rim
Blake Griffin 22.4 0.4 26.2% 17.9% 103.5 50.7%
Draymond Green 13.3 4.8 16.1% 22.4% 96.0 46.9%
Ryan Anderson 17.9 7.7 5.4% 12.7% 108.7 55.4%

If Anderson is a mismatch for the Gentry's ideal power forward, those duties will vastly fall on Anthony Davis. (As an aside, Gentry had vowed he was going to keep AD at the 4 for most of the time anyways.) Thus, Ryan Anderson will play the 5 a lot. Great, more floor spacing for everyone!

Not so fast.

Gentry's bread and butter is employing a version of the Princeton offense. In case you're not familiar with the terminology, it refers to a basketball strategy that utilizes team movement through a variety of cuts, passes and picks. It is preferred that all five players on the court be above average in dribbling, shooting and passing, but it is obviously not a requirement. One only needs to have a look at the centers on Gentry's last few teams: Andrew Bogut and DeAndre Jordan.

How does Anderson compare at the 5?

PPG per 36 3PA per 36 AST % DREB % Defensive Rating OPP FG% at rim
Andrew Bogut 9.6 0 15.4% 26.5% 95.2 41.4%
DeAndre Jordan 12.1 0 3.2% 32.4% 103.1 48.5%
Ryan Anderson 17.9 7.7 5.4% 12.7% 108.7 55.4%
Omer Asik 10.1 0 5.4% 28.8% 103.3 51.1%

As the numbers above indicate, it's not mandatory for the 5 to be an offensive threat. This is one of the areas where you'll witness the biggest differences between Gentry and Mike D'Antoni. As to where 7 seconds or less functioned best with 5 genuine offensive threats, Gentry's system doesn't require it. In fact, it prefers to have one individual responsible to be the team's anchor on defense and on the glass.

Following the departure of Amar'e Stoudemire, Gentry had the option of starting Channing Frye at center and Hakim Warrik at PF. Many believed he would go this route; however, he ended up rolling with Robin Lopez before the Suns eventually traded for Marcin Gortat.

In addition to Gentry's philosophy, there exist other factors calling for Anderson's exodus.

  • Ryan's name has been brought up in trade talks almost seasonally. No doubt other teams would like to employ the services of one of the best stretch 4's in the game, but we should assume Dell Demps has also been partially to blame. Despite all the injuries, there is a large enough of a sample size that a Davis/Anderson backcourt struggles defensively.
  • A year ago, nikkoewan published a very pertinent article. In essence, he argued the Pelicans spending a majority of their cap space on three players who can only occupy two positions as an inefficient use of resources. I have to agree. After agreeing to deals of 145 million to Davis and 60 million to Asik the last few days, re-signing Anderson following the final year of his contract would make for poor asset allocation.
  • Gentry has encouraged AD to extend his range out to the 3 point line. So far this offseason, he has been busying working on just that. If Davis can add the long range jumper to actual game scenarios, Anderson's skill set would be further diminished to the Pelicans.

Getting in that work today!

Posted by Anthony Davis on Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Everywhere you look nowadays, writers love harping about versatile small lineups. The Golden State Warriors just won the latest NBA championship by starting Draymond Green at center. Andrew Bogut played a combined 3 minutes the final three games of the series against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

However, an 82 regular season game schedule requires better adaptability, hence why the New Orleans organization handed out a large contract to Omer Asik. In Gentry's recent stops, it's not that we learned small ball is the ultimate goal but rather his strategies work best when a team has complementary parts.

Sorry folks, but Asik brings more to our table than Anderson. Ryan Anderson's shooting can be more readily replaced with Davis' newly found prowess, Luke Babbitt or a combination of other players. The Pelicans still have to rebound the basketball well and deter plenty of shots in the paint area.

Forget Asik's dreadful playoff performance because Demps smartly has. Consequently, expect those Ryan Anderson rumors to fire up before the next trade deadline. The Pelicans only have to hope that this time around he'll rediscover his pre-back surgery form and avoid those extended injury absences.